Sherlock Holmes | 2009
Victorian London is knitted together from real locations all over England (along with studio sets and imaginative CGI) in Guy Ritchie’s irreverent take on the Sherlock Holmes canon. The film bounces along enjoyably enough, though the ratio of cerebral deduction to fisticuffs is a slightly tilted the wrong way, and the script seems set up to spawn a franchise.
The opening scene, of Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) and Dr Watson (Jude Law) heading towards St Paul’s Cathedral is filmed on Middle Temple Lane (where Michael Gambon was abducted in Robert de Niro’s CIA thriller The Good Shepherd, and where the haunted Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) walks the streets in The Wolfman).
They arrive at St Paul’s Cathedral, where the spiral staircase chase was filmed. The crypt, though, where Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is apprehended while preparing a human sacrifice, is the nave of the Priory Church of St Bartholomew The Great in Smithfield (a familiar location seen in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Neil Jordan’s The End Of The Affair and Shakespeare in Love among many other productions).
Don’t count on booking a table at classy restaurant ‘The Royale’, where a disgruntled Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) disrupts the meal with Watson and his fiancée, Mary. The restaurant was conjured up inside the Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall, one of London’s exclusive gentlemen’s clubs, previously featured in Bond movies Die Another Day and Quantum Of Solace, as the 'Geographers' Guild' in Paddington, in the 2001 remake of The Four Feathers with Heath Ledger, Lindsay Andersons anarchic O Lucky Man! and Roger Donaldson’s The Bounty.
Another location from The Bounty supplied the elegant streets of central London, the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, London SE10. The adaptable complex has also been seen in Tom Hooper’s hugely successful film of Les Misérables, The Madness Of King George, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Thor: The Dark World, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns; The Duchess, Young Victoria, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Music Lovers and many other productions.
Lord Blackwood appears to have risen from the Blackwood family vault in Brompton Cemetery, Old Brompton Road, Earl’s Court. Another screen favourite, look out for its gloriously decayed Victorian extravagance in GoldenEye, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, Stormbreaker and now Guy Ritchie's own The Gentlemen.
The crowded working-class streets of the capital were filmed in central Manchester, on Little Lever Street, Bunsen Street, Mangle Street and Back Piccadilly.
The ‘London’ docks, where a ship is being built – and gets prematurely launched– was filmed at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent. The docks’ gates also became the entrance to ‘Pentonville Prison’, where Holmes and Watson are subsequently incarcerated. The docks were more recently seen as ‘Montreuil-sur-Mer’ in Les Misérables and as the Egyptian port of ‘Giza’ in The Mummy.
The headquarters of the ‘Temple of the Four Orders’ – supposedly in ‘St James’s’ – where Holmes meets Sir Thomas (James Fox) and the Home Secretary (Hans Matheson) is the Long Gallery of Hatfield House, Hatfield in Hertfordshire. James Fox should feel at home here – the same gallery was also his house in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The house also became the 'Diogenes Club' in Mr Holmes, with Ian McKellen, as well as being seen in Shakespeare In Love, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Henry VIII and his Six Wives, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes.
The room in the ‘Grand Hotel, Piccadilly Circus’, where Holmes has an eventful encounter with the devious Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), is Cliveden House Hotel in Berkshire (site of the actual events recounted in the 1989 movie Scandal), three miles northeast of Maidenhead on the B476 Hedsor road (rail: Taplow). Once home to the Astor family, Cliveden is now a National Trust property, and the house itself is a luxury hotel. It stands in for ‘Buckingham Palace’ in The Beatles’ second film, Help!, and as the country home of Sir Rodney in Carry On – Don’t Lose Your Head and its clock tower is briefly featured in Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella.
The exterior of Sir Thomas’s grand home is the College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street, EC4, in the City of London (which, you might remember, is where James Bond gets a crash course in heraldry in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).
The Masonic meeting, where Blackwood pulls the old Bond villain trick of kindly allowing anybody with doubts to leave freely, is fittingly held in the Third Vestibule of the Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, Holborn WC2. The throne which Blackwood occupies is set up between sculptor Walter Gilbert’s huge bronze doors, which actually open into the Grand Temple.
The building’s grand interiors can be seen in many films – standing in for Saddam Hussein’s ‘Baghdad’ palace in Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone, as a nightclub in Fast and Furious: Hobbs & Shaw and as the 'International Court of Justice in the Hague' in The Hitman's Bodyguard.
Back up north, the elaborate Gothic Revival interior of Manchester Town Hall, on Albert Square, stood in for London’s 'Houses of Parliament’, where Blackwood reveals his sinister plan. The Town Hall is used the same way in both Louis Malle’s 1993 melodrama Damage and in Phyllida Lloyd’s film about Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady.
The ‘London warehouses’ on the Thames alongside a partially-built Tower Bridge are Stanley Dock in Liverpool. Now developed as (inevitably) 'luxury apartments', the famous docks are also seen in Captain America: The First Avenger.
And New York? Studio sets were built in the US, at the Marcy Avenue Armory, 355 Marcy Avenue, Williamsburg in Brooklyn (which has housed productions including Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and Will Smith thriller I Am Legend). Here, the attic of the Punch Bowl pub (site of the bare-knuckle fight), the interior of Holmes’s 221B Baker Street apartments, and a section of the uncompleted Tower Bridge, were constructed. The Punch Bowl, incidentally, is the name of director Guy Ritchie’s real boozer, on Farm Street in London’s classy Mayfair.